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Family goes to extremes to alleviate autism in The Horse Boy (1)

Medical narratives often depict ordinary people who turn to alternative healing methods when traditional Western health care fails. Seldom can you find families that go to the lengths of Rupert Isaacson and Kristen Neff, who traveled from Austin, Texas, to the steppes of Mongolia with the hopes of improving their son Rowan’s autistic condition.

Narrating the documentary The Horse Boy, Isaacson justifies the trip early in the film. At his worst, 5-year-old Rowan’s cognitive problems make him the equivalent of “a giant 18-month-old” with poor social skills, incomplete toilet training, and seemingly endless, inexplicable tantrums. Isaacson’s research into shamanism and Rowan’s affinity for animals, especially horses, inspire the father to see if the two in combination could have therapeutic value. He discovers that Mongolia combines shamanic traditions with horsemanship, so he, Neff and Rowan embark on a journey a world away.

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